Brexit fishing war reignited as France lashes out at ‘uncooperative’ Jersey

Ireland 'privately worried' over EU fishing stance says expert

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Earlier this year French fishermen incensed with post-Brexit fishing licence rules blocked the ports of Jersey. Now, France’s maritime minister has branded Jersey “uncooperative”, and reignited threats against the British Overseas Territory on fishing licences.

Annick Girardin, French Minister of the Sea, claimed there is a lack of willingness from Jersey to work with Paris on fishing licences.

Speaking at a fisheries conference held in Saint-Pol-de-Léon, the minister bemoaned the difficulty for French fishermen to gain access to Jersey’s waters.

She said: “It is definitely obvious that Jersey does not respect the Brexit agreement, worse, it shows a lack of willingness to cooperate with us.”

She claimed 46 licence requests were unanswered and 52 licences had expired on 31 October, “including 13 priority ones, depriving these fishermen of access to Jersey waters”.

Ms Girardin also announced she was preparing a “fleet exit plan” to compensate French vessels who can’t fish in British waters.

She said: “Without prejudging the outcome of the negotiations, I have asked the DPMA (Directorate of Fisheries) to propose, in relation to professionals, an estimate of the fleet exit plans that I could finance.”

She said that “40 to 60 million euros” could “be put on the table” for fishermen put out of work.

Olivier Le Nezet, president of the Regional Fisheries Committee, also said at the speech: “The UK is wiping its feet on the Brexit deal.

“The Government must take strong decisions. If we have to act, we will do it.”

In October, France threatened to ban British fishing vessels from landing their cargoes in French ports and to tighten customs controls on all lorries if London did not grant more licences to French fishermen.

Emmanuel Macron backed down and said he would hold off imposing the measures to give dialogue a chance, but French officials have insisted the all options remain on the table should dialogue fail.

Secretary of State Clément Beaune said at the time: “We have a problem with the methodology used on the British side for the delivery of these licences, with a certain number of criteria that are additional requirements compared to the agreement that was concluded and which pose a great difficulty for us.”

A UK Government spokesman added: “Both sides have set out their positions and concerns.”

It comes as Lord David Frost told the EU to “get used to” the UK calling the shots over its fishing waters.

The Brexit Minister told Parliament’s European Scrutiny Committee that “fishing organisations and so on thought we had agreed five and a half years of no change – that’s not the case”.

He added: “We have the right to regulate our own waters in a totally different way to licence fishing vessels and so on.

“Getting used to that is at the root of some of the difficulties.

“We have licenses for lots of French fishing vessels in fact. I’m sure it will settle down.”

The post-Brexit trade agreement sees British fishermen get 25 percent more fish in its own waters by 2025 than it did before leaving the EU.

This process has begun this year and will continue over the next four years, with regular re-negotiations on quotas occurring from 2025.

In recent weeks, the Channel Island Jersey has been at the centre of French anger over fishing rights.

Some French boats were denied permits to fish in the island’s waters because of difficulty proving they had worked there prior to Brexit.

The UK National Federation of Fishermen’s Organisations says that sorting out those legitimate boats from opportunists trying to take advantage of the situation is a normal, technical exercise, adding it is “best done through quiet dialogue and far from excitable politicians”.

Additional reporting from Maria Ortega.

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